|On The Northern Line|
The London Underground - also known as The Tube - is an amazing phenomenon. It moves countless people around the city on a huge network of lines and stations. The organisation behind it all is quite phenomenal. Trains and track need maintenance. The correct people must be in position. There's security and cleaning to consider plus the collection and calculation of fares. It is an enormous operation that has taken a hundred and fifty years to evolve. I blogged about it last year - go here.
I have always been conscious of the subtle social dynamics that operate on tube journeys. You are surrounded by random strangers. They get on and they get off. Most people stay quiet, avoiding or ignoring any eye contact with other passengers. You are together but not together if you see what I mean.
Some passengers wear earphones or fiddle around with their comforting mobile phones even though there is no connectivity in the tunnels. Some read books or newspapers.
You would never lean across to one of these total strangers and say things like - "I say, that's a jolly nice coat you are wearing!" or "Haven't I seen you somewhere before?" or "Excuse me could you help me out with this crossword clue?" No. You stay separate, protecting your own space, pretending to be oblivious to those around you.
Sometimes it is interesting to secretly observe them by cunningly referring to reflections in the glass .
On The Tube you find all manner of people from all over the world and in spite of the underground etiquette, every one of those passengers is different from the next. Their apparel will often reveal a lot about them and how they view themselves - from fashionistas to football fans, from city gents to bag ladies. We give so much away just by how we look.
On Saturday, Frances, Stewart, Shirley and I boarded yet another tube train. It wasn't crowded. I was last on with a newspaper in one hand and my camera in the other.
The train lurched out of the station just as I was attempting to sit down. With no pole to hang onto I kind of lost my footing and sort of fell upon an attractive young woman who was sitting in the next seat reading a book in her personal space bubble. She was very nice about it and thankfully she wasn't totally squashed by the weight of my manly physique. Of course I apologised profusely. I mean, it probably wasn't what she was expecting - the infamous Yorkshire Pudding on top of her in full public view without so much as a "please" beforehand.
As we travelled south on The Northern Line, I realised that I missed a trick when I was a young man. Simply falling upon women in tube train carriages would have been a great way to hook up. No flowers, chocolates or nervous introductions. No dating apps or "Match.com" or romantic poems required. If I had only known I would have been faking tumbles all the time. It's a great way of breaking the ice - as long as she isn't knitting! The look on that young woman's face was priceless.